Oscar Winner Louis Gossett Jr. Dead at Age 87

Oscar Winner Louis Gossett Jr. Dead at Age 87

Louis Gossett Jr. speaks onstage at the screening of “Carmen Jones” during the 2023 TCM Classic Film Festival in Los Angeles, Calif., on April 15, 2023. (Jerod Harris/Getty Images for TCM)

Jessamyn Dodd

Jessamyn Dodd

3/29/2024

Updated: 3/29/2024

Louis Gossett Jr., a luminary of both the silver screen and television realms, has passed away at the age of 87, marking the end of a journey that saw him etch his name in the annals of cinematic history.
Renowned for his talent and groundbreaking achievements, Mr. Gossett became the first black man to clinch an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, a distinction earned for his compelling portrayal in “An Officer and a Gentleman.”
Mr. Gossett’s cousin, Neal L. Gossett, told The Associated Press about the late actor’s legacy: “Never mind the awards, never mind the glitz and glamor, the Rolls-Royces and the big houses in Malibu. It’s about the humanity of the people that he stood for.”
A Brooklyn native, Mr. Gossett’s odyssey into the world of acting began during his formative years, catalyzed by an unforeseen detour from the basketball court to the stage following an injury. Embarking on this newfound trajectory, he made his inaugural Broadway appearance at the age of 15 in “Take A Giant Step.”
Undeterred by the hurdles that loomed for black actors in Hollywood at the time, Mr. Gossett pursued his passion, studying his craft in acting lessons alongside Marilyn Monroe and fellow Oscar winner Martin Landau at the Actors Studio.
He co-starred in the TV miniseries “Roots,” where his portrayal garnered an Emmy Award. However, his performance as a Marine drill instructor in “An Officer and a Gentleman” catapulted him to cinematic superstardom, earning him the Academy Award, notably as the first black man to win in his category.
Racking up more accolades in Hollywood, Mr. Gossett earned a Golden Globe for his performance in “The Josephine Baker Story” and another for his role in “An Officer and a Gentleman.” His career boasts nominations spanning the spectrum of prestigious awards, including seven Primetime Emmy Awards, three Golden Globes, and an Academy Award nod, alongside a constellation of Image Awards, Daytime Emmy Awards, and a coveted star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In cinema, Mr. Gossett’s footprint is indelible, with his debut in the 1961 cinematic gem “A Raisin in the Sun” marking the inception of a storied journey. From the depths of “The Deep” to the courtrooms of “Blue Chips” and the skies of “Iron Eagle,” his filmography shows his range as an actor.
On the small screen, Mr. Gossett made appearances spanning from “Extant” to the political labyrinth of “Madam Secretary” and the gritty realism of “Boardwalk Empire.” Other credits include the animated sitcom “Family Guy” and the medical drama “ER.”
Beyond the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, Mr. Gossett was committed to social justice. In 2006, he founded the Eracism Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering young minds with the tools of tolerance and understanding.
Despite a diagnosis of prostate cancer in 2010, Mr. Gossett remained undaunted, leveraging his platform to advocate for awareness and early detection within the African-American community.
In his final act, Mr. Gossett captivated audiences with his portrayal of Ol' Mister in the cinematic rendition of “The Color Purple,” cementing his legacy as a trailblazer and an icon of the silver screen.
Mr. Gossett is survived by his two sons. No cause of death has been given.

Tributes

Upon hearing the news of Mr. Gossett’s passing, tributes began pouring in across social media.
Coleman Domingo, who portrayed Mr. Gossett’s son in the reboot of “The Color Purple” posted a photo of Mr. Gossett on X, formerly Twitter, with the caption: “Was able to capture my “dad” the legendary Louis Gossett Jr. He was open and generous. Kind beyond measure. Regal. We owe so much to him.”
Civil rights advocate and attorney Ben Crump posted his heartfelt acknowledgment of Mr. Gossett’s achievements: “Louis Gossett Jr., the 1st Black man to win a supporting actor Oscar, as well as an Emmy for ‘Roots,’ has died at 87. In our eyes, you were a LEADING man despite your many inspiring roles as supporting characters. Thank you for your undeniable talent. Rest In Power!”
“We are saddened by the loss of legendary actor and friend of TCM, Louis Gossett Jr. The first Black actor to win a Supporting Actor Oscar, he portrayed a variety of unforgettable characters on stage and screen,” wrote Turner Classic Movies.
In addition, several fans paid tribute with clips of Mr. Gossett’s Oscar win and clips from his films.
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Jessamyn Dodd

Jessamyn Dodd

Author

Jessamyn Dodd is an experienced TV news anchor, reporter, and digital journalist covering entertainment, politics, and crime.

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